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Brunei to Establish Harsh Laws Against Gay Sex

In the modern world, it is difficult to fathom a nation evoking the death penalty due to an individual’s sexual orientation — it may be deemed an absurdity. Even considering the continued persecution and discrimination of the LGBT+ community in the Western sphere, most nations have absolved their legal condemnation of same-sex courtship between consenting adults, establishing laws that prevent others from hindering their freedom of sexual expression. Such progression in Western nations may cause people to forget that the fight for basic human rights on a global scale is not yet over. In Brunei, laws that enable death by stoning of those accused of gay sex will become active beginning on April 3. 

Report of the newly implemented laws came in a December announcement by Brunei’s attorney general, yet it only recently gained international coverage. Brunei first claimed that it would enact laws that permitted harsh punishments under Sharia Law for adultery and gay sex in 2013 but delayed its implementation due to international protest. Though initial plans to impose the laws were hindered, the conservative ideologies of Brunei’s sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, condone the cruel response to homosexuality to come within the next week. The authoritarian nature of Sultan Bolkiah is a detriment and reversal of any human rights that may have been held by the LGBT+ Muslims residing in Brunei.  

Rightfully, there has been an international outcry in response to Brunei’s proposed legislation. Such an extensive and harsh call for punishment violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the United Nations. Article 5 of the declaration states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of punishment.” The Sharia Penal Code to be implemented in Brunei will deprive LGBT+ Muslims of not only the should-be implied right to love freely, but additionally their legal rights documented by the United Nations. The perpetual discrimination of the LGBT+ community should be promptly denounced by the UN, especially considering these inhumane laws. The general distaste from the public for the harmful Sharia Penal Code should incite the UN to intervene and condemn this treatment to those expressing their sexual orientation. 

The most vocal amidst the violent nature of the Brunei government is the human rights organization Amnesty International. In a statement regarding the upcoming laws, Rachel Chhoaa-Howard criticized Brunei for its decision to implement the Sharia Penal Code, which would extend the punishments to children. Chhoa-Howard outlined the urgency in holding Brunei accountable, stating, “Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations.” Hopefully, the outcries by international human rights groups will lead to the demise of such a discriminatory set of laws by the regime in Brunei.  

Western nations have not outright expressed their condemnation of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s intention to form a conservative regime under Sharia Law. Perhaps this is due to the ties countries such as Britain and the United States have with Brunei. Until 1984, Brunei was a British protectorate and today the countries remain strongly aligned. Though death by stoning was not formerly a punishment for homosexuality, same-sex relations were illegal and amounted to a prison sentence during British colonial rule in the East Asian nation. In early acknowledgement of the updated Sharia Penal Code, George Clooney and gay rights activist groups have attested to the financial relations countries have with Brunei that are centered around the oil industry and luxurious hotels. Clooney, advocating the boycott of luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, says, “every time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.” With the critical outlook of celebrities like Clooney and activists groups, there is likely to be more attention and reprehensive responses given in light of the actions in Brunei.

The proposed laws in Brunei are evident of a major setback regarding the human rights of LGBT+ members. Though there is a persistent fight against the discrimination of LGBT+ on a global scale, it is a necessity for those of us who are able to be vocal to speak out when we see international injustices such as the ones in Brunei. Now is not the time for us to be indifferent in the Western sphere because of our own gradual liberation from the stigmatizing nature of plaguing homophobia. We must use our voices to end such heinous crimes — beginning with speaking out against the inhumane actions against the non-heterosexual population of Brunei.

Photo: Stock Catalog via Flickr Creative Commons

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Sade is a 17-year-old residing in the United States of America. She is passionate about all forms of communicative arts and Hawaiian-style pizza. She hopes to attend New York University's College of Arts and Sciences to major in journalism and minor in creative writing.

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